An Afghan American Founder’s Mission to Dismantle Barriers
My entrepreneurial journey started at the age of 10 managing an automatic pop machine in the waiting room of my family’s car repair shop. I clipped the Sunday newspaper coupons to buy my inventory and eventually saved enough for a pair of Rollerblades.
I grew up watching my parents build their small business in the Twin Cities brick by brick. They dedicated their lives to the dream of building a business to support their family. They worked long hours and sacrificed weekends. They showed me hard work wasn’t something to be scared of. They taught me to take care of your customers the way you would take care of your family—not because it’s good for business, but because it’s the right thing to do. This pride, dedication and hustle was ingrained in me at a young age.
My parents immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan in the 1970s. They made the sacrifice to leave behind everything they knew to live in a country rich in opportunity, freedom, and a strong education system. My father was almost kicked out of college twice for not knowing enough English. He worked hard to get his degree. Today he is a successful business owner, a wonderful father, and a leader in his community.
My family has always valued education, not only for my siblings and me but for other bright young Afghans. Growing up, we had the privilege of hosting Afghan exchange students in our northern suburban home and helping them access universities in the U.S. These incredibly brave and courageous students, primarily women, risked their lives to get their education. Providing a safe space for these students to learn and find their voice where it was otherwise not valued was a way for my parents to support their country from afar and bolster future generations of Afghans.
As a child of Afghan immigrants, I was heartbroken to see two decades of progress reversed in a matter of days when the Taliban took over in August 2021. The rage and anger my siblings and I felt were not new emotions for our parents. My parents were numb because they have seen their homeland slip away to these thugs and criminals before. The Taliban are offenders of the most heinous crimes and were put in charge of their beautiful homeland. My parents felt betrayed.
Over the last year, the Taliban have implemented waves of restrictions on the Afghan people. With freedom and hope slipping away, now Afghanistan is the only country in the world that bans education for girls. This did not come as a surprise, and many have been fearing this day all along. The reversal of Afghan women’s and girls’ rights is atrocious. We need world leaders to take action immediately and hold the Taliban accountable.
With the recent events in Afghanistan it is now more important than ever to support non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and relief work for the safety, support, and development of young women. Early in 2022, Maazah partnered with the Malala Fund, donating 1% of sales to support girls education programs in Afghanistan.
Designating profits from the business we built to support education for girls from my family’s homeland is to pay tribute to my parents for the sacrifices they made and support the future young Afghan girls. My parents are my guiding pillars; they taught me about life by example. A life, where I wake up everyday feeling thankful I have the freedom to use my talents in whatever I choose. My entrepreneurial journey has not just been about connecting with my culture through great tasting food. I am driven to break through barriers, dismantle stereotypes, and inspire others to do the same.